Posts Tagged ‘African-Americans’

My nine year-old daughter is a beast on the track. She has trained with a venerable club in Durham, North Carolina for the last two years. Despite its inner-city membership, we love what it stands for: building character and discipline. The Durham Striders have consistently trained athletes who have won many medals and built a reputation of improving the lives of inner-city youth.

However, as a parent in the stands, I didn’t fit in with the general school of thought in the group. For us, track was an avenue of discipline and focus for our child. She is a natural athlete and loves to compete; thus this outlet was just what she needed. It never occurred to us that this hot, sweaty, demanding torture was a means to an end, the end being an athletic scholarship.

Scholarships are great. I went to college with them. My older children received full academic scholarships. With the ridiculous cost of college tuition these days, there are far more families sending students to college with some form of financial aid than there are parents writing blank checks.

But my daughter didn’t run for the money she might get down the road.

Unfortunately, many families of minorities believe the only way their children will be successful is if they play a sport and get a full ride to a big college or university.

Why? Is it because they know that inherently the schools their children have attended are not good enough and have not prepared their children well enough to pursue any profession?

Maybe the parents weren’t educated and thus couldn’t provide the academic support their children needed to do well in school.

It certainly seems clear that many “minority” groups including African-Americans and Hispanics (especially those with African ancestry) are gifted physiologically, with an inherent ability to excel in sports. A friend once told me that God knew what he was doing when he gave minorities their portion, because he knew what they would have to endure long before they did.

The other night I watched an interview on the local news with a former University of North Carolina employee, Mary Willingham, who has co-authored a book called Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes and the Future of Big-time College Sports.

Can you tell who is in charge?

She blew my mind during the interview when she called the NCAA a “cartel” and likened them to a plantation, extorting the African-American athletes to help earn millions of dollars and thus paying for all the other sports at universities which generate less revenue, like lacrosse, field hockey, etc. which are all the “White” sports, the sports of the privileged. Here’s the link for the nterview:

http://www.wncn.com/story/27992414/willingham-unc-had-shadow-curriculum

Aside from dating a couple of basketball players in college, I don’t know a thing about college sports.  But I was an avid supporter of my student athletes when I taught high school, standing outside in the freezing cold collecting money during football games, and sitting under blankets with my equally frozen children, because the athletes wanted to see their teacher there.

But I stopped going to any high school games or offering my support of any kind when I was pressured to pass a kid along, or change a grade, or give the athlete another chance.  When the parent showed up in my trailer in tears, telling me their kid would have no future if they didn’t pass my class, and that sports was all they had, I became angry.

I was angry that the parent had such a low opinion of their child’s intellectual ability, of their academic potential, that they defaulted for them the only thing they could: the equivalent of slave labor.  They essentially sold their child to work for free, in scorching heat, for hours each day, for the white man.  After all, we know who has the money don’t we? In college athletics, high school booster clubs, and professional sports.

Why else would Marshawn Lynch be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the NFL? The puppet had to perform, keep the stakeholders happy, the ones who wanted to see a sweaty athlete offer a verbal recap of violent plays just to feed the man’s bloodthirsty power trip.

Just look at the owners of these NFL teams, as they stand (during the 4th quarter, with two minutes left on the clock) and you can see them making mental calculations in their heads of a win or a loss and what it will mean for their bottom line that week.

From high school sports all the way to the pros, the Black man (and others) continues to fall for a system of subjugation and control.

The “no other way out” mentality for minorities is visible in every area of modern society. Jim Caviezel starred in an inspiring film based on the true story of De la Salle high school and their winning streak.  I loved everything that Coach Ladouceur believed in and stood for, but the same one way ticket to modern slavery still rang true for the athletes of color.

I can think of tons of movies and stories where athletics is the only answer for the minority students.

And yes, it’s a great option for a young student, but why can’t there be anything else? Why can’t schools and parents push their children academically and say, “Just imagine son, you can get an academic scholarship and an athletic one. You’re an athletic scholar. You can have it all.” Unfortunately, what he hears more commonly is, “Well, he ain’t got no daddy, so football all he got and he needs to get out there and get himself a scholarship to play ball.” Junior hangs onto that instead.

Ms. Willingham has been walking a lonely road for the last four years, amid the scandal of phony classes and the easy way for UNC athletes. It’s a road I am quite familiar with.  And I know many of the teachers in Chapel Hill High School were tutors for the athletes after they did their day job educating the privileged white kids. It is a corrupt and wicked system Ms. Willingham exposed at UNC and she paid a painful price for it, as I did in the very same town. But there’s something to be said about having ethics. I found I slept better at night with my ethics than I would have without a soul.

How can this nation gain an equal footing racially when everywhere they look, white people see minorities still serving them, still living smaller, earning less, and being subjugated?

I told my partner that if every professional athlete in the NFL who is African-American refused to play ball on one Sunday during the riots after Mike Brown was executed, the nation would have been forced to deal with it, like a slap in the face.  After all, money talks.

 

I went to bed with a heavy heart last night, virtually unable to tell my remote control to shut down the television and resist enigmatic pull of Anderson Cooper and all the madness exploding in Ferguson, Missouri. I even took a shower, convinced that by the time I exited the hot steam and poured myself my favorite glass of milk, it would all be winding down.

It was not.

Amidst videos of people pouring iced water over their heads, a darker tragedy of a volatile nature has reemerged. As Chris Blow, a political commentator for CNN and reporter for the New York Times mentioned yesterday, the nation has essentially been simmering on this issue of race relations, and as previous tragedies have intimated, the pot is preparing to boil over. Trayvon Martin’s tragic situation and the trial that followed, along with other instances around the country, coupled with the immigration beast issues have created a maelstrom of seething anger and divisiveness in the United States.

How will this country withstand so much happening on the homefront, whilst President Obama deals with assaults from Republicans AND all the Middle East issues looming larger each day? Is our African American president really crippled as many seem to think, when it comes to taking a stand on the treatment of Black people in America? I don’t think so. I believe that there is still time for Obama to make his mark in his last years as president, especially since he cannot be reelected. He still has time to shed the politically correct cloak he’s been wearing and roll up his sleeves.

Nevertheless, my milk didn’t taste as delicious as it usually does as I saw the instigators and rabble-rousers manage to achieve their malicious intent to disrupt peaceful protestors and incite the authorities in Ferguson to use their riot tactics before I heaved a sigh and shut it down for the night.

This is another incident where everybody loses. Michael Brown, clearly a lost youth heading down the unfortunate but all too prevalent path towards a jail cell, was breaking the law with petty foolishness and lost any chance he had to live a productive and satisfying life by being gunned down unnecessarily. My partner says he should have been playing football somewhere, using his strength productively, perhaps on a scholarship somewhere. That’s how Mike Tyson got a chance to get off the streets and use his natural talents proactively. But he had mentors and people who snatched him up and steered him towards a better life.

The police officer who shot Mr. Brown also lost, because he is probably going to face charges for this recklessness on his part and his life will never be the same again. I don’t believe he started his shift that day with the intent to “take a nigger down” as someone told me recently. It seems like this situation escalated on knee-jerk reactions, some of it based on the young man’s size and combined with adrenaline, led to an unfortunate end. Clearly police protocol and sufficient back-up personnel were not in place as this nightmare unfolded so rapidly.

From the perspective of humanity, not race factors, both these men have lost their lives.

But who am I? I’m not the mother who lost a son, or the cop who is probably watching everything he had ever hoped for get flushed down the toilet. I’m not even the relative of either of these men.

I am however, the partner and lover of a Black man, who stares racial discrimination in the face every day. I am the mother of two bi-racial girls, girls who I would give my life for, who I fiercely try to protect from a Southern environment where they are judged instantly by White people. Yesterday, for instance, we went to the library and my daughter in her excitement to get in the door, exclaimed that when she grew up she wanted to own her own library (I laughed) because she wanted to be able to walk up and down the aisles and be able to read any book she wanted. For the three of us the online card catalogue is a shrine and we love searching for books that interest us. Sadly, the computer database was down yesterday and we moped over to the librarian at the counter, who was happily smiling at the lady in front of us in line and helping her with her search. When it was our turn however, the librarian’s smile was nonexistent and her answer to our questions were curt and dismissive. Condescending, as though our brown skin would somehow infiltrate the books entrusted in her care.

At a base level, I wanted to leap over the counter and shake her fat face, kick her in her fat ass and tell her, “Do you know who I am??? I have an IQ triple those of you and your whole entire redneck family. I was born and raised in New York City and can crush you. I have defied stereotypes and paid my way through college, survived abuse and given birth to six beautiful, intelligent children. Don’t you dare speak to us this way!”

But my upbringing and my education squelched my baser instincts and forced me to square my shoulders, check myself and enunciate extra carefully to this small-minded librarian our needs.

As the mother of two beautiful brown-skinned intelligent young ladies, and a woman who loves fiercely this strong, proud Black man, who has served his country, educated himself, and is striving to protect and provide for his family, I am a woman who worries.

Ultimately, I also carry guilt because as an educator who has taught in inner city schools and seen the hopelessness prevalent in these teenagers — as I once devoted my life to doing — I feel I should be back on those front lines. I should be using my degree and teaching license to serve those who really need someone to give a damn about them because I firmly believe that education is the key to rising above tragic situations like Michael Brown’s. Education is the key to bringing communities together, to working towards a better life. When you are educated about men like Ghandi, and study cultures who historically have faced adversity through sticking together, then they can inspire revolutions of hope and maybe, just maybe African Americans can begin the process of breaking the hard-wired chains of slavery that still linger generationally and keep them from realizing their true strength and power as human beings.

In Durham Public Schools, the White kids are missing.  Even though they make up over 50% of Durham’s population, only 19% of White kids attend the public schools.

Not to mention, the racial makeup of traditional public schools are reflecting Durham County’s racial makeup less and less. Durham County is 53 percent white, 38 percent black, and 13 percent Latino, yet 51 percent of the children in the Durham Public Schools system are black, 24 percent Latino and only 19 percent white.  http://www.thedurhamnews.com/2013/12/31/3494508/durham-public-schools-looks-to.html

According to Mr. Alexander, the author of this news article, Caucasians are populating the growing number of charter schools approved by the state’s school board.  These students are the children of Duke professors, UNC professors, etc.  Either the giant purple blob of the ’50s is living in the public schools of Durham, or they’re running away from something else.  Shall we take a guess at what they’re running away from?

Yes, the White people of Durham know what’s going on behind the closed doors of their neighborhood public schools. They know they don’t want their children in an academic environment that is far from anything that can even faintly resemble a learning institution. These Durham schools are filled with kids from families who don’t seem to give a damn, who are more concerned with their drink, their cars, their weaves, or the latest reality shows on tv.  They don’t read to their children, their children stay up far too late on school nights, and they are the two out of three who are not proficient in reading yet…in the third grade. In fact, the local papers in the area frequently feature school personnel gingerly stepping into the projects to deliver books to needy children, or deliver school supplies to them.

I’m not afraid to say what this article comes short of writing. The days of dancing around the truth are over for me. The White people are on the run and I certainly don’t blame them.

When we were on the run from exclusive Chapel Hill, hoping for more diversity and less Stepford-ville living, we listened to the advice of others who were more familiar with Durham.  The one that struck me the most came from the principal of the school where we sent our daughter.  I looked her square in the face, and asked her to tell me, not as a principal, but as a mother, whether she would place her child in the school she runs. She replied confidently, a resounding yes, absolutely, positively, this school is very diverse and an 8 out of 10, 10 being amazing.

With a deep breath we rejected the charter school spot reserved for her, and plunged ahead into the neighborhood school she was zoned.  Our family’s experience in summary, follows.

  • Day one: the front office staff barricades themselves from the parents.
  • A good measure of the quality of any school is the car rider line. During the first week I witnessed cars driving over the curb at high speeds to cut in front of other parents in the line. Others were virtually running over the other walking parents who were taking their kids to the door.  Parents in front of me were yelling at the staff to come around to the other side to get their child out of the car, instead of the parent putting their child on the correct side for quicker exiting. Staff members opened the door to our car, mumbling how many more years they have until retirement.  Yes, very encouraging.
  • A classmate (3rd grade) passed a note to my child offering to give her oral sex.
  • 5th grade girls on the cement block where the kids were allowed to “play” (the brand new playground was off-limits to the students) walking up to my child, wanting to jump her for no discernible reason.
  • Third grade teachers were brawling in front of the students during recess. Don’t get me started about the staff.  Every single form that came home to us had typos, grammatically incorrect sentences, misspelled words, incorrect dates on them.  Staggering ineptitude.
  • We witnessed staff members at the awards ceremony for good grades laughing at the students names as they pronounced them incorrectly. These were the staff members who were at the podium, in front of everybody.

There’s more, but what’s the point?  Can anyone offer a better explanation as to why the White families have taken their children elsewhere?

The limits of our endurance came when our child’s teacher was abruptly moved out of her classroom, to go teach a 4th grade class permanently, with no notice to the parents, nothing.  Then the student teacher who was in the classroom suddenly became as the permanent teacher.  The STUDENT teacher.  Yes, that’s right.

According to a comment by the school board chairwoman, Heidi Carter, “We need to be sure that we have the confidence of the parents in this community that our school system can provide excellent educational opportunities for their children,” Carter said. “The strengths of Durham Public Schools lies in our people that are in the classrooms or in the school buildings leading and teaching every day.”

Would this inspire confidence for any parents?  Maybe because I am a former educator I simply expect too much?  No, I don’t think so.  With my first four children I met hundreds of teachers at several schools.  This situation, for my child’s critical 3rd grade year, was unacceptable.

She no longer attends that school.  After battling with the principal, and being denied a transfer, I had to reach out to the school board and superintendent’s office.  The first question from one member of the superintendent’s team when I explained our concernsm, was, “So what exactly do you want?”

What did I want?  I wanted what I thought all parents wanted: for my child to receive the basic instruction to help her grow into an educated young lady, a productive member of society. We would do the rest.  I wanted staff members who were professional, who didn’t treat us like we were felons when we arrived to pick up our cookie dough fundraiser garbage to help support the school.  I wanted the community I remembered when I grew up.  But those times have changed.

So, as in any major inner city school system, the White people are on the run away from the rest of the residents, who are mostly minorities.  Mr. Alexander’s article goes on to discuss the needs of the minorities while the comments from the district office is the polite and safe but meaningless jargon about poverty and their efforts.  Here’s the reality:

The African-Americans and Latinos are two cultures that are neglecting their responsibilities to their children. I don’t believe it’s all about poverty.  I watched (remember the car rider line) these “poverty-stricken” families rolling up in cars with the fancy spinning rims, while their kids stepped out the vehicles in cold weather with no coats on, shirts that were riding over their protruding bellies, hair that hadn’t seen a comb in days, and flip-flops on their feet, and in warm weather like they’re going to the club. Their priorities are all screwed up.  The dads are missing.  The grandmothers are trying to raise their grand kids when they should be enjoying their golden years.  Let’s just be honest here:  The African-Americans have lost sight of all it took to get them the freedom they deserve and unfortunately not all the Latinos are quite the success story of Emilio Vicente.

See: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/02/08/3603256/for-uncs-emilio-vicente-an-extraordinary.html.

More money isn’t going to fix this cultural breakdown.  This is the plight of all inner city schools across the nation.  Seeing Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008 may have sparked a few temporary tears for many minorities in this country, but it didn’t create the wave of sudden optimism to break the chains of stereotypes.  There’s been no radical swing in upward mobility by enough minorities to show America a different face.

I didn’t come from people with money.  I came from hard-working Hispanics.  But every day when my parents stepped out of their apartment to go to work, their clothes were clean, freshly pressed, and they were neat.  My mother always told me that just because a person is poor doesn’t mean they have to look like they’re poor.  I have plenty of relatives living in projects, but once you get up to the 96th floor and into their residence, you could eat off the floor it was so clean. Poverty in this day, with all the services being offered, is no longer an excuse for ignorance.

In 2014 ignorance is a choice.

So, what do the Whites do?  Keep running.  Keep making more money working for large pharmaceutical companies or food manufacturing companies that are poisoning Americans with too many drugs, addictive junk foods, all while keeping the ignorant down, so they can afford the private schools and segregate the South once again.